tv The White House Chandeliers CSPAN December 25, 2016 10:00pm-10:46pm EST
stevens. a former chandelier and window cleaner at the white house for seven presidents wrote about his experiences in his memoir, the white house chandeliers. >> outage you you get to the white house?ul >> when he first got back i was a military police so i went to number 14 precinct and talk to sergeant about being a police.rt and i had to take a test and they set i passed the test on they were not hiring any blacks. so that didn't work. and then i went to the fire department and i had to sign a sheet of paper that was to wait to join the fire department. i knew knew right away i can't wait this long. so i went back in the still my dad he said well, you're going
to have to wait on them to call you and while you're waiting you're going to have to find a job.ave to f you are saving a lot of money in you picked up a few bad habits so you're going to have to get yourself together. so i said yes, sir. so i went to work at a restaurant in the northwest. they wanted me to be the busboy which i have never known a thing about being a busboy other than wash and desist home. so i started washing the pots in the pants and when people finished eating i would go outsh and pick at the dishes with my train bring them back to the kitchen where i can wash him. so i didn't really know that
i've seen all of this money land on the table by the plates and things and i thought it was for me. so i started started picking up some of it putting it in a tray and taking it back. so the girls got the hollering about their not get tips. so one of the girl said, i just seen the busboy pick up some tips.ai so they called me and told me and said you're not supposed to pick up the tips, you just pick up the dishes and wipe off the table. but you don't pick up the tips. i said oh okay. so i stop picking up the tips. but i think it along to good there. so i left and i told dad and i said i'm not making it at this restaurant because on picking up peoples tips not known and they're getting excited.
so this is not great to work. so so my two brothers came by and my dad was telling to them and said your brother tried to get a job but he's not been able to get a job can you help him get a so m job? so my two brothers didn't have anything like a business but they were trying to do some work for themselves like going to peoples houses or washing windows are going to a store washing storefronts. finally they said well will take them with us and show them how to wash windows. so they did. they taught me how to wash windows. so not too long after that i was down at the executive office building and i was cleaning the front of the building which was 30 feet high.
i had six pieces of ladder and each piece was 6 feet. so they were sectioned where you could put them together. so i got up there and started cleaning the glass and i was doing good because i like the job pretty good. and the mr. rogers came out of the building i did note the time. time. and he stood back and watch me when i got done he said young man, i see you're doing a a good job washing the windows. and i said yes, sir. i've been doing it a long time. and he said have you been in the military? i said yes, sir. have you ever been in trouble? and i said no, sir. he said well, we have a gentleman over at the white
house that will be washing the windows but we need somebody to wash windows that note they're doing. he said what i'm going to do, going to give you a pass and i'm going to give you a stack of paper for you to take home and fill them out, every line, you fill them out.ill chec because the secret service is going to check everything and if we find everything wrong then you can't work at the white house. i wasn't worried about that because i know i had it -- when i was coming up i might've did a few crooked things but nobody did know nothing about it. i didn't have to go to court. it did mess up my record. r so i took my paper so mom and dad looked over the papers and t went back at the old elb and i asked the secret service they
came to me and gave me a position and permission to see mr. rogers. i talked to him and he said okay what i'm going to do, going going to take her to the whitent house and let you meet mr. wilson, the fellow that is washing the windows. and i said yes or. so i get over to the white house and i was nervous. when i see mr. wilson. he was actually cutting the putty out of the windows to hold the glass into the fray.e and he didn't know, he had a razor blade was cutting the putty out. so i told them i said mr. stevens, mr. roger sent me over to help you. because i'm a window washer. and he said well i'm glad to sez
you because they're trying to make a window washer out of me and i'm not a window washer. and he said said i'm glad to see you.ad and i said well one thing whene you clean and a window you can't cut that putty out of the because that's what's holding the class in the window. i started working the new press building and so my job was to wash all of the windows. so after a got there had been there for a while started washing the window but i was working for contractors i was real fast because when you work for contractors they get paid by the work you do. that is how you get paid, by the work that you do. so i was real fast.
so i started cleaning all of the windows and cleaning them fast and i seen a lot of the guys that work there, some of them are goofing off somewhere going to the locker room playing chess and throwing darts and all that junk. i was not into that. i got a family here. i have have to support my family. i knew if i lose this job i havt to go back in the cold and wash windows. so i said okay, he said mr. wilson says steve, you do whatever you want to do, you can have because i'm through with it.. so he left and i cleaned the windows and then one day i cleaned all the windows size walking around trying to keep from getting into trouble.
so i went to the garden that one time he was secret service. >> he said that you got your your permission at this point to work in the white house, had your papers gone through a new bank bank cleared in? >> not at that time.ha i had my temporary pass and i went up i told him i said he had his glass down over his nose in his head down and he said what can i do for you? and i said well, i have been use to working fast and getting wora done and i am doing it too fast here. so i don't have enough to keep me busy. and i don't want to get in no trouble. so he said what you have in my question work i said i see a lot
of dirty chandeliers and light globes and they have cobwebs all over them. some are so dusty they really don't look like chandeliers. so he said, so you want to start trying to clean the chandeliers? and i said yes, yes, sir. i've had a little experienceer with that because i worked in the conference for a little while they had chandeliers there and ahead clean some of them there. so he said we will give you a try. and he said these are the most expensive chandeliers so you have to be careful. if you get to break in the he said, you are gone. so. so i said yes, sir. no problem. so they came and put up a scaffold for me. i was in the hall where the redn
rug comes down the main entrance of the white house.right that is where i started that, right there. they put up scaffolding and i started cleaning chandeliers. there was two, two main one and they were there prettiest chandeliers in the house. i really think they was it real crystal. they was like diamonds and they were flashing all kinds of color. when i started cleaning them i made up my own solution. a lot of it was 100% ammonia with no grease, no sides, this is clear ammonia and i would take a little bit of ammonia, just a little bit, put it in the hot bucket of water, by the water be in hot it made the geta
ammonia get that much harder because the warmer the water the stronger the ammonia gets. so i got up on the scaffolding and i started cleaning the chandeliers. i had a chamois and i have myrag cleaning rake and then i had a dirty rake. not a clean break, but one but one that i could lay the crystals on so i can put them in the bucket and i would take it out of the bucket and ip would polish them with my chamois and then i would lay them there so after i got some money clean like that then i would put up some pieces and take down some more pieces. so finally i went around the chandelier and then i had the painter come over and move me
over to the next one. it took me 6 - 8 hours to clean the first chandelier. >> 6000 pieces. >> not that one yet. hannah got to that when you. these were just the two in the hall. i didn't mind working overtime because i needed the money for my family. so i started on the other one and i cleaned that one. when i finish cleaning them they really were like true diamonds. you cannot diamond that looked any better. they were picking up the flake, the rugs, all of the color all around. and then i told him and said i was finished in a got the painters to come and take the scaffolding down. i went back and started washing the windows.
somebody asked somebody, who is cleaning the chandeliers? and he told them steve. the word got around the white house that steve was cleaning chandeliers and you should see how they look. everybody start talking about how bright the chandelier was. how clean they were in, tell me you really did a good job in the chandeliers. at that time i didn't know what i was asking for. but they said sometime what you ask for you might not get it. there's so many chandeliers in light globes. >> what made you write your books, the white house chandelier? >> guest: to be honest with you i had all of my pictures and things in the closet and boxes and they had been in there for a while. my wife passed and my daughterht
come to me and she said daddy what he going to do with all that stuff? she said what you write a book about your white house experience. so i said yeah i would like to write a book but but i'm not all that good at writing a book and i didn't do that good in school. i picked up up a lot of stuff w from working in different places when i says i really don't know how to write a book. and she said well i'll tell you what. you tell me what happened, everything and i will write it down. so i will call my daughter and i was start talking just like i was talking to you and i start telling her everything and she started writing everything down. and she just kept writing and writing. so we started another day, same
thing. i would drive back to her and she wrote it all down or would type it down. and i did that i guess for about four or five weeks, i took that long to tell her everything. i was trying not to leave out nothing. but i left out some things because i didn't think it was appropriate to put in the book. >> what happens at the white house stays at the white house. >> absolutely. just like in vegas. what happens in vegas stays in vegas. speaking of that, when i first started we were to sign papers of that effect. we signed papers about finances, everything that you can think of
medical records, tax papers, we had to sign everything. so even if they wanted to they could go and pull your records out. >> as a security check. >> so you were started working when richard nixon was president. you remember the first time he saw him in the white house? >> guest: yes or. the first time i seen him he didn't come down early like the other presidents. and come through around 6:00 o'clock. so it was a good while before acing him. i think he came in august like at eight or 9:00 o'clock. but he came through and i was working in the flower room. you come out of the main resident and there is a coupleed of doors that you go into this flower room and then you are going to another set of doors to
go up along hall to go into the oval office. so he came through one day when he did not seem like he was too friendly of a guy to me. when i first met him. and i said say good morning mr. presidents and he said good morning. even but we got along good because he was a nice president. he was. one thing he believed in doing, he asked everybody he wanted to know the name of your children and how old they were in a christmas time he would send presence to everybody. all of my children. he sent some expensive gifts. i mean robots and all of that kind of stuff. i never really had a good conversation with him but i had
worked in his office when he used to go upstairs and study most of the time. he had a special room that he would sit and he would study him he wasn't the type of president to be disturbed. he act like he mostly wanted to be to himself. he wasn't happy and jolly like the other presidents but that was not for me to judge. my thing was to do my work and get out of his way and just get out of the way. so i seen him a couple of times after that and he finally got so he would throw his hand up and say good morning and i was a good morning mr. president.mornn i remember one morning about president carter and he came through about 6:00 o'clock in the morning like he did every morning, he had his bible in his
hand going to the oval office. w him and i got to be real good because he said good morning and i say good morning mr. president.id and he said what is your name? and they looked at my belt buckle because i kept it it was a brass kept it shining. everybody seen in and they say good morning steve, i didn't know none of their names and i would say say hi my man, how is everything. we got to talking, but anyway president carter, him and i got to be very good friends. we talked a lot. >> did it ever occur to you that there you were standing there with the president of the unitee states having a conversation? >> guest: and hit me when he
said and i said good morning mro morning steve. that's when it hit me and said you know your talk into the top people in the united states and they recognize your name. and that really made me feel good. and i made sure that i was going to be there when they came through there at that time. president reagan and all of them. and everybody seen me and they see my name so i was just a regular person would my job andi minding my business. with enough work to keep me busy. >> you said very kind things about both hillary rodham clinton and nancy reagan. what was your interaction withn the first lady? >> guest: will the main ones that notice the chandeliers first.
women, they pick up a lot of stuff that men passed right on by. i've always said, to me andaid o myself that how smart, much smarter women are than men because i've seen a lot of smart ladies at the white house and mrs. reagan and mrs. clinton, they were a couple of very smart ladies. also. also miss barbara bush, she was really a smart lady. the only thing i either heard bad about missing hillary clinton was one night they were in the bedroom on the second floor and they had a big storm a big bulletproof glass that slides back and forth. sometime it got a little warm in there so they would let an office of president to her but there was slide that window
backing crack the window as they could get some air. the secret service was right under their and they were down there talking and hooting and hollering and having a good time kiss it was at night.ent coul the president supposed to be going to sleep. so they made so much noise and miss hillary she went to the window as she hollered out the window as she said if you all don't cut that noise out and dancing i'm trying to get some sleep.ys if you don't cut the noise out you will be working there no more. and i didn't see them at that job no more. i don't where they went. but anyway miss reagan, we would describe her as a person that was very much in love with her husband. i mean very much in love with her husband. i would see them all the time
they used to have to go out to a diplomatic reception room to go out on the lawn to make the speeches and to get on the plane or wherever. they always went out to the diplomatic reception room. a lot of people thought that the white house front door the back door. he did have a front door .. door because there think about dignitary would come so they named it the north door and the south door. and that's where the name come from.it is a beautiful place. anyway miss reagan was a very nice lady but she kind of stayed to herself. should always speak and laugh and she was so crazy about
ronnie. everything was ronnie. she would talk ronnie all over the white house. she loved him that much. he was the same way. and thank god that he did not get killed when he had the attempted assassination on his life. >> were you at the white house that day? >> yes sir. i was there that day. what happened was the president went up to make a speech in the secret service were around him like normal. when he came out they fired two or three shots and secret service guys right away they grabbed the president, pushed him into the limousine, the
secret service good, they had to get there is one that got shot in the head they had to get mr. brady got shot in the head. >> where were you at the white house that day? >> i was at the white house doing windows. i don't know what part of the white house i was at but i heard it from the office that the president has been attempted assassination on president reagan. so i was really told everything that went on because when the secret service grabbed him and pushed him into the automobile, they push them too hard and he wanted to know why are you pushing me so hard and he looked down and said hurry up get them out of there when a president is in danger right away they get an russian right out of there.ed
so what they did was he said i want to go back to the white house and one of the secret service guys notice that he has some blood out of his nose. and they said mr. president were not taking you back to the white house he said we're going to take you to the hospital. so they took him to the hospital and they examined him with examination being president, the best examination you could get. they found out that he had a bullet somewhere in his long. they told him that he was going to have to have surgery. by that time time were to get back to mrs. reagan. she come in and she was sowo upset. she was worried and scared and crying. she ran over to ronnie and she
asked him how are you doing ronnie? i said i'm doing fine nancy, doing fan. i'm doing great, everything is all right. so the doctors come to him and told him that he was going to have immediate surgery.. >> but what was it like at the white house when this was going on? >> everybody was scared to death. like i said with a happy feeling , everybody knew everybody. everybody concentrated concentrated on doing things for the president. whatever the president wanted he got it. we're right there. we did everything he needed, everybody did everything they needed. for instance, patricia got married in the rose garden, man
we went wild, but anyway let me get back to the story, anyway they rushed him to the hospital, the doctors found out that he had to have emergency surgery and mrs. reagan, she had came in and she had to step back and he said ronnie he said i'm going to be all right. i'm going to be all right. so he looked at the doctors that was getting ready to perform surgery and he just looked at him and said are y'all democrats or republicans? and they all kind of smiled and they went on with their work. so after they did the surgery and everything he stayed in the hospital for a day or two but nobody knew just how serious it was because it was so close to him losing his life. >> to remember when he came back to the white house?
>> guest: i surely do. i remember everybody welcomed him there we were all standing outside and we were hollering for him. he was a tough man. he was a movie star, he just waved like he was all right. he had a wheelchair wheelchair they rolled them in the door and they went upstairs and he was upp there for a few days and then he had everybody outside clapping and hollering form. so he got out and stood at the window and just waving at them. which she wasn't supposed to be up out of the bed but he was the plpe of person. >> host: i understand you're a good horseshoe player. >> guest: i wouldn't say that. yeah, president bush was such a nice president.
with him having so much of the resume that he have, the the man had done just about everything. and he put up a bill the pastor round that he was going to have a horseshoe pit made and he wanted the horseshoe patent pit made and he wanted the way itbe was supposed to be made, the right distance so right away he had a horseshoe pit made and it was over by this from april because they had moved to the swimming pool where it used to be no place when president -- it will come to me as i go on. an he had the horseshoe pit made perfect. then he issued an order, for everybody to get a partner and him and his son were going to meet over at the
worship pit.ave the and may the best man win. don't be worried about because he's the president, you pitch the best way you can pitch. and whoever and whoever won or lost he gave them a present. so i went around and i picked up and got a man who worked in the coffee shop, matthew and he said i pitched for shoes when i was in virginia i know how to pitch him. and i said well, i pitched a, 'm little bit but i'm not that good, but will go practice, will will get them. and i said okay. so everybody else, all of the guys, can't remember if any women was involved, i don'tt think no women was involved. all of the men pick their partners and then we practiced a day or two and then thed president was ready.
i'm trying to think, i believe him and george w were partners,u and a couple of the guys got up there and they were gone, they knocked knocked him off right away. a couple more came and they got rid of them, they were good together. so my partner my partner and i come we went over there. in the first horseshoe eye through it hit the panic and it leaned up against the peg where he supposed to get three points. in my partner she threw a ringer. so we know were going to get this guy. and when they got the her shoes they pitched five after five after five, both of them, them, and i mean they just shut us out. they shut us out.ecause w and we just felt bad because we're shut out but we felt good
because it's the president. >> did it occur to you that you're playing horseshoes with the president of the united states. >> i guess that's why we didn't do nothing. we're scared half the time butgo he was such a good person and he was really into horseshoes. when he was in texas he sent foa some of the guys to come to texas to come down to texas to play horseshoes with him. he the plane horseshoes. >> host: these are just a couple of the stories that you've included, my experiences while working for seven u.s. presidents. we are here in your home in the suburbs of washington, you have quite a museum of white house memorabilia here.t it and >> is circuit. >> where did you collect it? when did you get it? >> was started was started from president next in. after every year all of the
house residence they got presents from the president and' i've got four from each president that only served one term. i have eight from the other presidents that served two terms which meme had more so much more. the bows that you set up there, the president bush gave us, and that if you a chance you look at it in its got the name, the dates, maybe that was a bicentennial year. >> i have seen personal notes from richard nixon, ronald reagan, bill clinton, bill clinton, hillary rodham clinton, just to name a few. >> yes, that's the truth, and they really well i got to know
the presidents real well through me maintenance them going back and forth through the hallway. sometime you come down and i would be upon the latter clean and the light globes that went from one end of the hallway all the way down to the other and it was my responsibility to makeey sure they're clean every monday. and there sometimes they would come down i would get down off the ladder and speak to them. i respect to them. and after they going get back up into my work. but jimmy carter, will president clinton he was very special because when i lost my mother and he came downstairs going into the oval office i spoke to him and he came over to me and he said steve, i heard that you lost your mother.
and he said you have my sympathy. i've been there in the same thing happened when i lost my father which was a year or two later, he came to me and said the same thing. and every birthday he sent me a card. i got ten or 15 of those things that every birthday he would send me one. president carter, a he's taken the cake. most of us that worked at the white house have never been to camp david. i was one of on. to camp i'd never been to camp david, i had heard a lot about it but i knew it was the presidents retreat. where they would go out and play golf for enjoy themselves and not have to worry about the country too much.
i guess they had all the phones and things with them but they're just enjoying themselves. so one sunday we're getting ready for christmas and we had 13 days to always get ready for christmas. set up the christmas trees, clean, i clean the mirrors in the east room from ceiling to floor. , four of them. and the guy came out and did all the windows and we did the chandeliers in the bowling alley. we had mears in the bowling alley that went from one wall the way to the other. in the same thing on the others side. and it was my responsibility to keep them clean.e they even where they had the gymnasium, they had windows alld over because people like to wasu themselves father working out in presgym. now getting back to president o
carter, a one sunday we got to order get everybody ready use going to take to get david for dinner we're excited we had a no chance to wash off her nothing. and we put on tuxedos and we were sharp. though we were dirty.had been we have been working and sweating getting ready for the christmas day because there is a lot parties going on. so he brought us to camp david and we got up and he introduced all of us in we walked around and everything, they had all the tables set up with all of the trimming, just like we were professional.anythi a lot of us didn't know nothing about five or six water glasses
on the table. or eight or nine pieces of silverware. we didn't know anything about that we all had separate tables, i think it was it was six or eight to a table and president carter got up and asked and did a blessing over the food on the butlers went around pouring out the wine in the glasses. so everybody had a nice glass and he poured out the line, everybody was just so happy laughing and smiling. when they got to president carter the butler poured water or wine into president carter's class. president carter stood up and he said steve and i said yes and he said, you know i'm religious and
i don't drink wine. would you like to have mine? and i said yes, sir mr. president. so. so he reached over and handed me the glass of wine.ad and i had two glasses of wine in my hand. everybody else had one. i drank mind instantly. so had one more left. so i was taken my time and we sat down and i was sipping the wine in the we had the big glass of ice water on the table. all kind of dessert, we had a fabulous a fabulous time. so when we got back to the white house all of the guys said to m we waited through the south portico which is the big green door where they go out into.
[inaudible] the guys told me steve, we're really surprised.rank the >> nsfw talking about and he i sa you drink the presidents wine.ff >> and i said will man, heheto offered it to me and you never tell the president know. and they looked at me and they said you're smart and i said no, you never tell the president know. will that so i wife and it wasas good wine. and i was ready to drink some more. we had a good time and we left b from there and we went straight back to the white house taken off our tuxedos and got back in our work close. i went back up on the scaffold to finish the chandeliers. everybody else was hanging christmas decorations.ce, man. it was a wonderful experience. i just can't tell you how
wonderful it was. >> calvin senior, this is called the white house chandeliers, my experiences while working for seven u.s. presidents. mr. stevens worked at the white house from 1970 until 2002. where can people find the book? >> guest: we have it on ourt website which is stewart stephen senior.com and we also have it in a couple of bookstores and were working to get it into a couple of bookstores and were going around to different places to seller books.>> >> you can find it online as well. >> yes sir. >> a thank you for your time and for being with book tv.
thank you for having us in your home. >> it as 2016 comes to close publications are offering their picks for the best books of the year. the cato institute argues more progress has been made in the past 100 years and then the past 100,000 and there's every reason to be optimistic about the future in progress. in "the civil wars of julia ward howe" called the life of the suffragist of the battle hymn of the republic. duncan clark profiles ali baba, it rivals amazon. the the economist noble books of 2016 include -- we look at the study of memory. washington post columnist recalls the former chairman alan greenspan.
>> it was alan greenspan who rebuilt the authority and created an independence. and i think it's time like now when it's under attack from politicians it behooves us to study under someone who is the expert, who looks at that who looks at that, that was adam greenspan. >> that's a look at notable books according to economists. book tv has covered many authors and you can watch the program on our website. booktv.org. >> college presidents, larry arndt, tell us your goal with your book, churchill's trial what are we going to learn? >> i spent a lot of time trying to figure out what churchill means, my goal in the book was to state that that's what i set out do. >> what did you